WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LIX) 02/25/21

James Arminius (1560-1609) emphasizes it is not an attribute of a regenerated person to be placed in captivity under the law of sin. Instead, Paul ascribes to them, “Because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”[1] When he formerly lived under the law, Paul was in captivity under sin’s strength and power. One negative response to Paul’s doctrine is that since “the law of the mind” and “the law of the Spirit” is one, they are unskillfully distinguished. Nothing fights against the members’ lawbreaking tendencies except the obedient inclinations and power of the Spirit; therefore, the law of the mind is the law of the Spirit.”

Arminius replies, it has already been proven that the rule of mind, and supremacy of the Spirit, are not the same.  The conscience also wages war against the bodily members’ intentions in those under the Law. Even the regenerated themselves are offended in many things.[2] But it is no secret that not one soul is sinless on earth.[3] The born-again cannot say truthfully “that they have no lawbreaking tendencies.”[4] In many things, the redeemed offends, and the child of God generally gains the victory in the contest against sin. That is when they use the gifts and fruit furnished them by the Holy Spirit. [5]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) remarks what John says here in verse eight about no one being without sin tendencies. He has John stating that if he and the Apostles cannot say they are free from such inclinations, how much less can the proud Gnostics say so, who suppose and assert themselves to be in a state of perfection. If we say we are without lawbreaking tendencies, we deceive ourselves. Still, if we say we’ve never had lawbreaking tendencies, insinuating that Christians were sin-free before as well as after conversion, that would allow people to continue living the way they were before conversion. Perfect freedom from all lawbreaking tendencies is unattainable in this life, not only by ordinary Christians but also by the most eminent saints.

Burkitt goes on to say that the Church of Rome would have us believe this is more about humility. But they say this with false modesty. The Apostle does not say humility is not in us, but the truth is not in us. He does not say we commend ourselves, and there is no humbleness in us; but we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us, no truth of knowledge in our understandings, no real holiness in our hearts. Who can say of themselves they made their heart clean? Neither can we ascribe any purity to our efforts. Any desired personal perfection related to purity should make us yearn for the day of final redemption when neither sin, sorrow, nor sickness afflicts us; when we will be robed with unspotted purity and perfect joy for all eternity.[6]

John Flavel (1628-1691) talks about a believer’s communion with the Anointed One, as John writes about in verse eight. The Apostle cries out: How contented and well pleased should you be with your situation. No matter how circumstances have influenced your place in this world, do not complain. God has dealt bountifully with you: He may have granted good things on the people of this world, but on you, He conferred Himself through the Anointed One.  Now, Flavel offers the following points to consider:

How humble and lowly in spirit should you be under your significant advancement. It is true, God has magnified you greatly by this union, but yet do not boast. You are not the root’s support, but the root supports you.[7] You shine but as a reflection of the Light.

How zealous should you be to honor the Anointed One, who put so much honor on you? Be willing to give glory to the Anointed One, though His glory should rise out of your shame. Never reckon that glory which goes to the Anointed One to be yours: when you kneel at His feet, in the most particular heart-breaking confessions of sin, let this please you, that therein you have given Him glory.

How circumspect (“observant”)should you be in all your ways, remembering whose you are and whom you represent? Can it be said that a member of the Anointed One was convicted of unrighteous and unholy actions? God forbid that we should say we have fellowship with Him and live in darkness; we are lying. The person who says they are in union with Him should walk even as Jesus walked.”[8]

How studious(“serious”)should you be about peace among yourselves which binds us together and thereby made fellow-members of the same body. The heathen world was never acquainted with such an argument as the apostle urges for unity.[9]

How joyfuland comfortable should you be, to whom the Anointed One, with all His treasures and benefits, which He applied so effectively in this blessed union of your souls with Him? It brings Him even closer to you: O how great, how glorious a person who does these weak little arms of your faith embrace![10]

German Protestant theologian Christoph Starke (1684-1744) points out that the Anointed One’s betrayer was one of His most intimate Apostles, so antichrist did not arise among Jews or Turks, but in the very midst of Christendom. The Church does not remain without offenses, not the least of which is among her fold. Teachers arise who hold to false doctrines and backslide from the known truth; the weeds do not grow by themselves but in the middle of the wheat.[11]

Samuel E Pierce (1746-1829) says that according to what the Apostle John has said, we should never lean to our understandings: these are matters of too great importance. To the law and the testimony, we should restore it. We are all prone to self-deception: we should, therefore, give up our judgments to the Word of God to be guided and influenced by the same. To have correct scriptural views of sin, of the law-breaking tendencies to sin still in us, is of vast importance. In God’s way, we fight against and overcome these inclinations, as stated in the everlasting Gospel. It teaches that our spiritual wellness and salvation should be of uttermost importance in our minds. To know this by the Holy Spirit’s inward teachings makes it efficient for us: and by it, we are saved from sinful, guilty fears and innumerable errors.[12]

Catholic scholar George Leo Haydock (1774-1849) shows how, just like the Rabbis in Judaism, they added their thinking to the Apostles’ thoughts. In responding to what John says here in verse eight, we are not to say or pretend we have no sin. In such a case, the truth would not be in us, and we should even make God out to a liar, who declared all humanity guilty of sin. We were all born guilty of original sin; we have fallen, and still, frequently fall into lesser sins and failings.

The only one we can exempt from this number is our Savior, the Anointed One, says Haydock. Even as a man, He never sinned, and His blessed Virgin Mother, by a special privilege, was preserved from all kinds of sin. Augustine says, “that for the honor of our Lord when we speak of the Holy Virgin Mary, He will not have us to mention the word “sin.”[13] Unfortunately, Haydock quotes Augustine out of context. These comments were made despite the fact that the Apostle John makes no mention of the Virgin Mary’s sinlessness. This is no attempt to denigrate the blessed Virgin Mary. As the angel said, she was blessed more than any other woman. But we cannot dismiss that throughout the First and Final Covenants, we are reminded that “all have sinned and come short of God’s expectations.”[14]

Charles Finney (1792-1875) comments on what John says about “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Finney remarks that those who cite this passage in opposition to the sanctification doctrine assume that the Apostle is speaking of sanctification, not justification. An honest examination of the text makes it evident that the Apostle makes no allusion here to sanctification but speaks solely of justification. In other words, all previous sin is taken care of before Justification. Any sins after that are dealt with in Sanctification.

A little attention to the connection in which this verse stands will, I think, render this evident, says Finney. But before I proceed to state what I understand to be the meaning of this passage, let us consider it in the connection in which it stands, in the sense in which they understand it who quote it to oppose the sentiment advocated in these lectures. They understand the Apostle as affirming that if we say we are in a state of entire sanctification and do not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If this were the Apostle’s meaning, he involves himself, in this connection, in two flat contradictions.[15]


[1] Romans 8:2

[2] James 3:2

[3] 1 Kings 8:46

[4] 1 John 1:8

[5] Works of James Arminius: Vol. 2, op. cit., The Ancient Fathers, pp.306-307

[6] William Burkitt: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 756

[7] Romans 11:18

[8] 1 John 2:6

[9] Ephesians 4:3, 4

[10] John Flavel: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, the Believer’s Union with Christ, Ch. 2, pp. 45-46

[11] Christoph Starke: Homiletics in Karl. G. Braune’s First Epistle of John, op. cit.

[12] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General on John, The First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 75

[13] George Leo Haydock: Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary, Haydock’s Catholic Family Bible and Commentary, printed by Edward Dunigan and Brother, New York, New York, 1859

[14] Cf. Psalm 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; 5:12; 1 John 1:8

[15] Charles Finney: Systematic Theology, 1878 Edition, Lecture 40, Sanctification, p. 550

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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